PNP records 8 election-related shooting incidents in Bicol
LEGAZPI CITY—As the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicol kept watch over the region while residents cast their votes for the barangay and Sanguniang Kabataan (SK) Monday, records revealed that around eight election-related incidents had already occurred during the weekend.
Senior Insp. Maria Luisa Calubaquib, Bicol police spokesperson, said in an interview Sunday that among the provinces in the region, Masbate was put under close police watch due to the rising number of shooting incidents in the area.
Masbate had 56 out of 123 shooting incidents in Bicol since January this year, making it the province with the highest number of gun-related violence in the region.
Calubaquib also said that the province has the highest recorded election-related incidents.
According to police records, six recent shooting incidents in the province are suspected to be election-related. Meanwhile, Camarines Norte and Sorsogon had one each of such election-related shooting incident.
Calubaquib said that aside from the reactivation of the Regional Special Operations Task Force (RSOTF), some 2,000 uniformed personnel were deployed in Masbate as early as March this year in preparation for the May 14 polls.
“Our forces are concentrated in Masbate because it’s an island, and sending necessary reinforcements there may not be as convenient as compared to the mainland,” Calubaquib said.
Out of 550 barangays in Masbate, 368 are considered Election Watchlist Areas (EWAs) according to data released by the Regional Joint Security Coordinating Council (RJSCC). EWAs are determined by the presence of private armed groups, communist terrorist groups, or the combination of both.
“We are hoping for a peaceful and safe election, and to that end, our stations are open 24/7 and our forces are constantly conducting necessary police operations,” Calubaquib said.
Omnibus election code violators
Meanwhile, at least eight individuals were arrested by police over the weekend in Bicol for violations of Omnibus Election Code and by the Philippine Army during encounters with suspected members of the New People’s Army (NPA).
Among those arrested were village officials like Francisco Jesus Racaza, a village chief in Placer town, Masbate, who was arrested after allegedly firing at brothers Alfon and Donald Pahilino. Alfon, 36, is a village councilor in Katipunan where Racaza is chief.
Encounters with rebels were also recorded in the days leading to Monday’s elections.
Col. Ferozaldo Paul Regencia, spokesperson of the Philippine Army’s 9th Infantry Division, said that two soldiers died in a clash with suspected NPAs on Sunday in Ragay town in Camarines Sur.
Regencia said that there were two separate encounters in Ragay after residents in the villages told the authorities that the NPAs “have fielded candidates” for the barangay and SK elections. /je
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.